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Restoring the cell identity network to improve the function of aged cells


   Institute for Molecular Bioscience

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  Dr C Nefzger, Dr M Naval-Sanchez  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Ageing is the greatest risk factor for virtually all degenerative diseases but meaningful interventions to move the focus away from merely treating its symptoms are missing. To slow or even reverse aspects of cell ageing we need to understand the underlying processes to implement effective strategies targeting it. Findings from the field of transcription factor (TF)-mediated reprogramming point towards epigenetic changes as fundamental drivers of the ageing process. The fact that mature cell types can be reprogrammed back towards a pluripotent state (so called iPS cells) by the forced expression of four transcription factors (Oct4, Klf4, Sox2, c-Myc [OKSM]), a process that resets the epigenome, demonstrates that development is not unidirectional. Furthermore, iPS cell generation has recently been expanded to functionally compromised aged blood stem cells. Considering that the resulting iPS cells were able to generate young healthy animals with a normal hematopoietic system and life spans, the ageing process per se, at least on a cellular level, appears to be an epigenetic phenomenon that can be manipulated. A possible PhD project linked to this funded project will either investigate redistribution of cell identity TFs during organismal ageing and leverage insights to improve/restore the function of aged cells; or focus on characterising the DNA-protein interactions responsible for the gradual resetting of the epigenetic ageing clock of somatic cells during iPS cell generation. This will help set a basis for future strategies to directly improve the function of aged cells without a need for pluripotency induction.

You will be based in a friendly lab at a truely interdisciplinary institute (Institute for Molecular Bioscience) part of the picturesque St Lucia Campus in sunny Brisbane.

The ideal applicant has previous experience with cell culture and general molecular biology techniques as well as some basic knowledge about gene regulation/epigenetics.

Applicants must meet the entry requirements for the PhD program, including English language proficiency.

IMPORTANT: When messaging below please indicate why you are scientifically interested in the project and why you think you might be a good fit for the position.


Funding Notes

Fully funded 3.5 year scholarship (with possibility of 1 year extension) with a standard rate - it is linked to a NHMRC (Australia's major medical research funding organisation) grant that has been awarded to the host laboratory. Both Australian and International students can apply. The studentship covers tuition fees and provides an annual stipend (currently set for 2022/23 as 28,597 AUD per annum, tax free). Additional benefits of the scholarship include a Mac laptop provided by the host university.
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